America has a long tradition of offbeat, vernacular theater—the Blackface minstrels of the 19th century, the rough-and-tumble high-jinks of vaudeville, the semi-underworld allure of the burlesque house—forms that always operated at the most extreme edge of whatever more legitimate style that had spawned them, and these bastard offspring were often so extreme that all, for good or ill, have disappeared completely.
Yet, the last ten years or so have seen a burgeoning revival of interest in classic burlesque, a presentation light years removed from the coarse vulgarity of today’s pole-straddling strippers, one whose premise is resolutely anchored in the gussied-up, peek-aboo, flash and dash antics that once made artistes like Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili St. Cyr and Tempest Storm international sensations. One of the prime forces in resuscitating this dormant art is Los Angeles’ Kitten de Ville, a blindingly blond peeler whose masterly employ of glamorous charm and sinuous old school temptation has taken her from seamy Tinsel Town boites to some of the most legit forums inland. Enjoying bookings in class spots like Manhattan’s Joe’s Pub and appearing on the big screen (a memorable bit, f’rinstance, dancing in Paul Schrader’s brilliant Bob Crane bio-pic Auto Focus), de Ville’s mixture of stylistic purity and craving, raving va-va-va-voom has not been limited to her own selfish interest: she also teaches burlesque dancing, and this event, showcasing her latest class of eager charges, is a combination graduation party and baptism-by-fire debut. Expect racing hearts and sweaty palms both ringside and onstage at what is certain to be a night of good old-fashioned tease-o-rama. (Jonny Whiteside)
Kitten de Ville’s School of Burlesque Back to the Grind, 3575 University Ave., Riverside, (909) 784-0800; www.back2thegrind.com. Fri., 9 p.m. –mid. $10. 18+
THIS IS A PRIVATE EVENT—ONLY RSVPS WILL BE HONORED, SO PLEASE CALL FIRST!